Fertility treatments increase risk of cancers in children

Researchers at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have found that babies born from mothers who underwent fertility treatments are at increased risk of developing many types of childhood cancers and tumours.

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Fertility treatments increase risk of cancers in children

Cancer in children can occur anywhere in the body, including the blood and lymph node system, brain and spinal cord (central nervous system; CNS), kidneys, and other organs and tissues. Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow out of control. In most types of cancer, these cells form a mass called a tumour.


Cancer is uncommon in children. Most cancers (99%) develop in adults, and it is most common in older adults. About 1 out of every 3 adults will develop cancer during his or her lifetime, while about 1 in 285 children will develop cancer before the age of 20.

The study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, was based on an analysis of babies born with and without fertility treatments between 1991 and 2013 at Soroka University Medical Center in Beer-Sheva, Israel, with follow-up to age 18.

Of the 242,187 newborn infants in the study, 237,863 (98.3 percent) were conceived without any treatment; 2,603 (1.1 percent) were conceived after in vitro fertilization, and 1,721 (0.7 percent) were conceived after ovulation induction treatments.

During the follow-up period, 1,498 cancers (0.6 percent) were diagnosed. The occurence rate for cancers was highest among children either after IVF (1.5/1000) and somewhat lower for ovulation induction births (1.0/1000) as compared to that of naturally conceived children (.59/1000).

“The research concludes that the link between IVF and total pediatric neoplasms and malignancies is significant,” Prof. Sheiner says. “With increasing numbers of children conceived after fertility treatments, it is important to follow up on their health.”

Other researchers who participated in the study include Prof. Tamar Weinstock, Prof. Ilana Shoham-Vardi and Ruslan Sergienko, BGU Department of Public Health; Dr. Daniella Landau, BGU Department of Pediatrics; Drs. Ari Harlev and Asnat Walfisch, BGU Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology; and Dr. Idit Segal, Israel Ministry of Health.

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